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How do inexperienced consumers learn to use a new financial technology? This paper presents results from a field experiment that introduced payroll accounts in a population of largely unbanked factory workers in Bangladesh. In the experiment, workers in a treatment group received monthly wage payments into a bank or mobile money account while workers in a control group continued to receive wages in cash, with a subset also receiving an account without automatic wage payments. The results show that exposure to payroll accounts leads to increased account use and consumer learning. Those receiving accounts with automatic wage payments learn to use the account without assistance, begin to use a wider set of account features, and learn to avoid illicit fees, which are common in emerging markets for consumer finance. The treatments have real effects, leading to increased savings and improvements in the ability to cope with unanticipated economic shocks. An additional audit study provides suggestive evidence of market externalities from consumer learning: mobile money agents are less likely to overcharge inexperienced customers in areas with higher levels of payroll account adoption. This suggests potentially important equilibrium effects of introducing accounts at scale.

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Published Paper
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December 16, 2020
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This RFP closed on February 12, 2021. Thank you to all who submitted applications.

In response to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, IPA launched the Women’s Work, Entrepreneurship, and Skilling (WWES) Initiative as part of RECOVR (Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses). The WWES Initiative combines data collection efforts, research projects, and policy work, focusing on two key themes: (1) women's work, entrepreneurship, and time use and (2) youth skilling and school-to-work transitions. The focus countries of this initiative are Kenya and Bangladesh.

Our Request for Proposals will support piloting, data collection, analysis, dissemination, and policy engagement activities. This document outlines full details about the RFP, including the process and timeline, application materials (including the application form and budget template), and driving research questions. Any questions should be directed to the SME team.

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Research Resource
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December 15, 2020
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Markets for consumer financial services are growing rapidly in low and middle income countries and being transformed by digital technologies and platforms. With growth and change come concerns about protecting consumers from firm exploitation due to imperfect information and contracting as well as from their own decision-making limitations. We seek to bridge regulator and academic perspectives on these underlying sources of harm and five potential problems that can result: high and hidden prices, overindebtedness, post-contract exploitation, fraud, and discrimination. These potential problems span product markets old and new, and could impact micro- and macroeconomies alike. Yet there is little consensus on how to define, diagnose, or treat them. Evidence-based consumer financial protection will require substantial advances in theory and especially empirics, and we outline key areas for future research.

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Working Paper
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December 01, 2020
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The Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) tracks representative samples of Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar district in southern Bangladesh. A phone-based follow-up survey from April 2020 reveals that, despite widespread knowledge of COVID-19, attendance at religious gatherings is high, representing a potentially important pathway for disease spread in refugee camps and host communities in Cox’s Bazar. Even after the imposition of lockdown restrictions in early April, attendance to religious events was still common in refugee camps and host communities alike. Over 75% of men in refugee camps and over 50% of men in host communities reported attending religious services at least once in the week prior to the survey (April 9-16, 2020). Most male respondents who attended religious gatherings did so regularly, for an average of 4.0 days and 2.2 days in the last week for refugees and hosts, respectively. These behaviors are prevalent despite widespread awareness of the sources of COVID-19 trans-mission. When asked about trusted sources of advice on COVID-19, both hosts and refugees identified friends, acquaintances, and community leaders—including religious leaders—as important. In fact, 44% of refugees place their trust in community leaders such as block majhees; putting them in front of other trusted sources of information including family, relatives, and informational campaigns.

In a separate survey of Imams from around Bangladesh, we find considerable willingness to make changes: almost every respondent had adjusted their practices in some way. Still, some important measures remain uncommon, including discouraging attendance of the elderly, removal of the communal prayer mat, and postponing congregational prayer. This may be due to respondents’ subjective assessment of the risk posed by COVID-19. About two-thirds of Imams felt that COVID-19 posed no or low risk to their communities. Given the ongoing attendance of religious gatherings and the trust placed in religious leaders, policies should be targeted towards decreasing prayer gathering sizes, reducing frequency of prayer attendance, and disseminating public health and social distancing advice through a key trusted source of information: Imams and religious leaders themselves.

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Brief
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July 29, 2020
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Women remain disadvantaged in access to management positions around the world. We conduct a field experiment with 24 large garment factories in Bangladesh to test for inefficient representation of women among line supervisors. We identify the marginal female and male candidates for supervisory positions and randomly assign them to manage production lines. Three sets of results emerge: (i) extensive diagnostic testing at baseline reveal few skill differences between marginal female and male supervisor candidates; (ii) initially, marginal female candidates have lower productivity and evaluations from sub-ordinate workers, though after four to six months, these gaps disappear; and (iii) the share of the female candidates retained as line supervisor after the trial is significantly higher than the share of female supervisors in the factories at baseline. This suggests that factories previously promoted fewer women than would have been optimal. Additional surveys and a lab-in-the-field experiment suggest that the initially worse performance stems from negative beliefs of workers about the abilities of female supervisors.

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Working Paper
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July 01, 2020
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We study the prevalence of COVID‐19 symptoms in refugee and host communities and their correlates with current and pre‐COVID‐19 living conditions. We administered a phone‐based survey to a sample of 909 households in Cox’s Bazar which was drawn from a household panel representative of Rohingya refugees and the host population. We conducted a symptoms checklist to assess COVID‐19 risk based on the WHO guidelines. We included questions covering returning migration, employment, and food security. We asked additional questions on health knowledge and behaviors to a random subsample (n=460). 24.6% of camp residents and 13.4% of those in host communities report at least one common symptom of COVID‐19. Among those seeking treatment, a plurality did so at a pharmacy (42.3% in camps, 69.6% in host communities). While most respondents report good respiratory hygiene, between 76.7% (camps) and 52.2% (host community) had attended a communal prayer in the previous week. Another 47.4% (camps) 34.4% (host community) had attended a non‐religious social gathering. The presence of returning migrants, respondent mobility, and food insecurity strongly predict COVID‐19 symptoms. Conclusion. COVID‐19 symptoms are highly prevalent in Cox’s Bazar, especially in refugee camps. Attendance at religious and social events threatens efforts to contain the spread of the disease. Pharmacies and religious leaders are promising outlets to disseminate life‐saving information.

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Working Paper
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May 19, 2020

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